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Bitten by collecting bug
Dennis Barbour can't exactly remember when his fascination with antique automobiles began. But it may have some nostalgic connection to age 12 when he started helping out the family business pumping gas at Barbour's Center in Ceres.

Ten old cars and thousands of dollars later, Barbour, 60, may be one of the area's largest vintage car collectors.

"There's just something about them," said Barbour. "It's an experience you don't get when you're driving a new car."

Barbour purchased his first old car, a Model T truck, in rusty condition in the 1970s. It would be his first and last attempt to restore an old car. Today he liked to buy cars that have been restored or have stock engines.

He has five Model Ts but is not sure why.

"I'm questioning my sanity owning Model T's," said Barbour. "Model T's aren't worth that much. There's not a real interest in them because they won't do 70 mph. If you're not 80 years old you don't know what a Model T was. They were last built in 1927 and I think at that time you could buy a new one for $400, which of course that was a lot of money back then."

Today his first Model T is worth about $12,000.

"They're a driving experience. I tell people that you don't drive them any farther than you can work back because it might break down on you. They aren't the most reliable car. The didn't have the technology."

Like the time he broke down while on his way to the Border Run in Carson City. That was after it took him six or seven hours to drive it to Nevada from Oakdale, up Highway 88 at a neckbreak speed of 15 mph.

"On flat ground you can go 40 to 45 mph," said Barbour. "You try to stay off the freeways."

Most of the time Barbour will put one of his vintage cars on a trailer and drive it to the local area where he plans to drive it. He hauled one of his Model T's to a special Indiana event that marked the 100th anniversary of the Model T in July 2008. He also participates in three-day driving tours with car clubs.

Don't expect to see Barbour's cars displayed at car shows.

"I don't do the shows," he said. "About an hour at a show and I'm ready to leave. I've never been one to sit at a show for four or five hours. It's not my thing. I've been more about buying them to drive them. My theory is if I can't drive them then I don't want them."

Barbour often is seen driving his blue 1936 Cadillac - purchased from Don's Mobile Glass owner Don Monaco - around Ceres.

"A lot of people like to look when I'm driving it. It's not something they see every day."

It's also a nicer ride than his 1939 Lincoln Zepher. The V-12 flathead motor pulls 80 HP.

"It's a nice driving car. It's comfortable compared to a Model A or a Model T."

He also owns two stock Model A's but his pride and joy is a 1932 Ford four-cylinder Roadster. The racecar, painted as a number '7' is loud. His wife, Barbara, is not especially fond of riding in it for it bounces a lot and the small windshield hardly keeps the wind from wrecking havoc with hair.

"It gets kinda squirrelly when you get up to 100," he said with a sheepish grin.

The car has more power than most modern cars. That's because the engine was modified with an overhead valve conversion, boosting the stock horsepower of 40 up to 200.

Two other cars in the collection are recent additions. One is a 1922 Model T truck that was used to haul luggage to a San Francisco hotel from train stations and boat docks. The other is a red 1914 Model T he bought eight months ago on eBay from a Santa Barbara owner. The car purportedly belonged to a Mr. Winfield, possibly of the Winfield Carburetor Company which was manufacturing carburetors for racing cars in the 1920s. When he brought it home he ended up polishig the brass for three or four days.

"I think I'm at the point now where I'll stop buying. Just trying to keep these things running is enough."

Barbour said his cars keep him busy and that he's usually tinkering with them every day in his metal shop building or parked about on his 3.5 acres. Sometimes he takes a weeklong break from driving various cars. He hasn't found that old cars have to be driven a lot to keep them in shape.

"I've seen Model T's sit for years and with a little bit of tinkering it'll start right up. They're really simple machines."

Still, he doesn't rule out another car or two that catches his fancy.

"I might see something I want and say, yeah, I'd like to own that. Once the newness wears off I won't drive it for a while."

When he's out Barbour is often asked if he wants to sell the car he's driving. He usually says no, but he has thought about getting rid of one. That's when Barbara steps in and reminds him about the memories they had with that car.

"She has a personal bond to just about every car I own. Our first date with in the black roadster 10 years ago."